Millions of Brits suffering tied to hated subscriptions

Why do we waste hundreds of pounds on unused subscriptions?

Anxious woman paying bills

The average Brit has twenty subscriptions at any one time. Some we have forgotten about, some we cannot face going through the hassle of cancelling, and some we have tried to cancel, but somehow we can't seem to get rid of them. As a result, we are stuck with an incredible 73 million unwanted subscriptions between us.

Research by subscription-free satellite TV service Freesat found that many people fall into contracts by accident. Consumer psychologist Dr David Lewis explains: "Subscriptions can trap consumers by making a 'something for nothing' offer – such as 'first three months free...' companies can implement a situation where people fail to notice when the 'free' period ends and then never get around to cancellation."

Once we have a contract, we may forget about it entirely, or decide we may as well stick with it just in case it comes in handy.

In some cases we have decided to cancel, and then been derailed somewhere along the line. First we get snowed under with paperwork, as we try to find all the details we need. Then we are baffled by salespeople on the phone as we try to cut a subscription off. We end up on the phone for an average of 26 minutes, and by the end of the call, one in three of us have been persuaded by a salesperson not to cancel after all.

As a result we waste a total of seven days of our lives trying to cancel unwanted subscriptions.

The stress involved can be considerable. An impressive 1.3 million people claim they're tempted to move house just to get rid of an irritating contract - while one in 50 say it's so annoying that they'd be tempted to leave the country to get rid of the contract.

What can you do?

The cost of subscriptions can add up alarmingly. It may only feel like a few pounds here and a tenner there, but if you have 20 of them, you could easily be wasting hundreds of pounds a year.

Dr Lewis suggests you start by making a note of all your subscriptions. He says: "Place subscription details to the left of the page and cost to the right. Now add up the total annual cost. The result may surprise you."

Once you have all your subscriptions written down, some may strike you immediately as being worth cancelling, so set aside an hour, and systematically go through them and cancel them.

For the rest, keep your list of subscriptions somewhere visible. Dr Lewis says this is a useful way to combat our tendency to forget about the financial drain of our subscriptions.

In future, try to see a subscription coming up for renewal as an opportunity to search for a better deal. Dr Lewis says: "In just a few clicks you might find your current subscription is available at a promotional rate, perhaps using a voucher code - so bag that bargain!"

When it comes to setting up new subscriptions, take your time before you get into anything. Dr Lewis advises: " Subscriptions such as 'pay nothing for the first three months' are especially dangerous. Make sure you read the small print for all contracts before you sign on the dotted line, so you don't end up paying more than you planned to."

Finally, he says: "Give yourself time to pause and reflect before you part with what, over a year or more, could be a considerable sum of money – always take a day to reflect and think a purchase over before you take the plunge."

Most outrageous bill mistakes

Most outrageous bill mistakes